Just Bloom

This is my favorite place. Ever since I can remember, I have escaped to this veranda. It’s nestled off the second floor of our old antebellum house, once regal but now chipped with paint and in need of attention. My haven overlooks a copse of generations old live oak trees smothered in Spanish moss. It also gives the best protection from the berating noises of my father hollering across the house at Mama. Lord knows what the bourbon has lied to him about this time. The magnolias have bloomed fast under my bedroom window just to the left of me, and their scent serves as a reminder. They are beautifully fragile and last only a moment, yet they are strong enough to return each year. Just like me… and Mama.

Dilcey says Daddy had a rough upbringing, and since she’s the oldest person I know, I reckon it to be true. She’s never lied a single day in her life any how. She says Jesus rewards those who are true. I sure hope so. She’s got to be at least sixty so she’s had plenty of time to figure things out. I can’t even remember a time when Dilcey wasn’t here with us in this big old house. Her grandmama was a slave right up the river a long time ago, and Dilcey’s grown roots here. Says she ain’t never leaving. I figure that’s true too.

Dilcey is the only one who knows that this is where I hide. It’s got two old navy damask wingback chairs, faded with time. They face one another like two old people sitting in silence. I usually just plomp down and cross my legs just to feel the coolness of the worn wood planks on my skin. Mama and Daddy haven’t been out here in ages. They stay downstairs where it’s cooler in the summer when the windows are thrown open, and heated up by the fireplaces in the winter. Only I use this place to look out over my little paradise. Or to escape it.

One time, before Dilcey’s knee began to ache too much, she climbed up the stairs after one of Daddy’s bad ones just to bring me an ice cold lemonade.

“Chile,” she said as she persuaded my fine, limp mousey hair into braids, “Sum folks jes got so much hurt inside of dem dat dey don’t kno’ how ta do nuthin’ else but hurt.” She didn’t say anything else to me. Just let me sit there in the shade, sipping my lemonade, trying to fix my helpless hair. I patted her arm to let her know I understood. That’s the way it’s always been with me and Dilcey- not a lot of words, but a whole lot of talking.

Now I sit- much older than I was then, but too young to do much about anything. My hair is now pinned to the top of my head, letting the slight breeze tickle my neck promising of cooler days to come. I close my eyes, trying to drown out the sound of his voice and strain for the song of whippoorwills in the distance. Mama doesn’t make a sound. Just listens. But unlike me, she listens up close. Taking the brunt of his anger, fending off the sharp edges of his words.

Eventually, he will put down his weapons and return to himself, just as he always has. Our little paradise will return, and life will go on. Kind of like those magnolias. When they are here, they are beautiful- pure. But as they die, they wither into a sickening brown, littering the yard below with their ugliness.

 

~~~

 

This is just one of many pieces I have written over the course of the past three weeks during the Oklahoma Writing Project’s Summer Institute.

http://www.owp.ou.edu

Homeward

Homeward

I reach up pulling my hair out of my lipgloss- again. My sleek ponytail is now a mess of cobwebs, but I don’t care. Pieces of it lash against my face, my ears, and my neck. But I just keep going. The wind whispers to me over the blare of music. My fingers tense and relax again. Invading motorists sometimes catch my eye, but I just keep going. Words swirl through my brain, “Mercy, Mercy… Heaven’s story, Breathing life into my bones, Spirit lift me, From this wasteland lead me home” finding release in my voice, firstly softly yet growing. “Arrest my heart, from its reckless path, release the chains in me.” I am off pitch and out of tune, but my Listener does not care. He appreciates my effort. “Gracious fury, written in my Savior’s scars.” My voice battles for my soul pouring over the beat of the wind. Tears spring to my eyes. “Mercy Mercy now engrained upon my heart.” The incredible gift of grace is more than this heart can bear. In this moment I find deliverance in the overwhelming gratitude for it. So often Life is too chaotic for me to find a minute to bask in the glory of His presence. The present engulfs me, suffocating me with this mortal life. So I just keep going. The peaceful noise of this moment reminds me of where I am going, my true destination that can’t be found on this road. My destination is not a house… it is my Home.

Pursuit

I’ve no ideas running, huffing and puffing around in my brain that ought to be shared. There. Truth from the start.  You know that while normally I’d begin this post with a witty statement or descriptive scene, I just don’t feel like it. My heart is heavy.

Not too long ago, I came across a poem I wrote a few years ago. (Rarely do I share my poetry as it is usually written in the spur of the moment or during a breeze of emotion.) I find myself in this place too often; a place where I yearn to dwell in God’s presence and know that He loves me, but find myself too unclean to stay, running from the ugliness that is a human being, and one so unworthy.

However, I remind myself that I am constantly being pursued regardless of what I do.

My Pursuer

The horizon blinks and gazes at me,

Challenging all I hear and all I see.

What does it mean to simply ‘be’?

Can one just exist while living and breathing?

 

You are everywhere and nowhere at once.

Your presence and love my only compass.

Yet it is not within my physical vision,

as if hidden too far beyond my reason.

 

Reason- my utmost enemy.

The complexities of faith astound me.

How can something, someone even be,

if that thing I cannot touch or see?

 

Yet you chase me, and I am captured.

Your love, my soul enrapture.

Reveling, marveling in your infinite grace.

Your arms surround me in strong embrace.

 

My unworthiness brings me shame.

I dare not to utter your precious name.

Yet your fingers gently lift my face,

and I stare into that infinite space.

 

My tears of shame are wiped away,

and in your grace you bid me stay.

The sheer blackness of my being,

Keeps me, blocks me from seeing.

 

Seeing again who I am in you.

You, who alone can see me true.

All those things I desire hidden,

you uncover, and forgive unbidden.

 

To know it is me that you so cherish.

My actions warrant not its merit.

No thing I do nor that I so decline,

would cause you to reject or despise.

 

I am your beloved, and my beloved is mine.

This relationship, your greatest design.

Yet darkness tries again to steal,

all I feel of you that is real.

 

Trapped in a thunderous whirlwind

blinded and caught in my deadly sin.

My own soul wretchedly mocks and taunts,

remembers all the shame I once wrought.

 

Still again you earnestly pursue.

There is nothing I could ever do,

that you would turn your lovely face,

away from all of my disgrace.

 

Reaching for my reluctant hand,

once again you make your willful stand.

Constant reminders of your affections,

Purest, seen most in nature’s reflections.

 

The purest love song have you written,

Dare I think with me you are smitten?

Arms open, tears roll down your face,

longing to wrap me in accepting embrace.

 

Finally, I surrender and succomb,

to your perpetual love you beg I come.

Resting as a child in a mother’s enfolding,

Acceptance of your grace no longer withholding.

 

It is now I find my truest evidence

In your perceptible, tangible presence.

It is here forever I must remain.

To live is Christ, to die is gain.

~Tara Dyson

November 16, 2012

Holding Hands

I watched them through the window. Sitting across from one another silently. No words needed. He savored the sweetness of his chocolate ice cream and waffle cone, pausing occasionally to push his sliding glasses back up the bridge of his nose. She daintily nibbled at her vanilla scoop in a more lady-like cup. They spoke no words. They rarely glanced at each other. Neither of them needed to see or hear one another. They simply enjoyed their ice cream together. Pausing to wipe his mouth on the cheap crumpled napkin, he exchanged it for her wrinkled hand. Softly, he pressed his lips to her gnarled fingers, set them back down on the table, then continued to devour his ice cream. She didn’t blink, didn’t smile. She never even set down her spoon, but continued eating. His kisses are common place. I watched.

What must it be like to grow in life for such long time that words become unnecessary. Words, which once sparked such emotion in an early relationship, finally become useless, replaced by actions instead. Unlike a newly blossoming relationship or a marriage in its early stages, Time brings together two souls not with their words. Words that can cause more damage than any other weapon in one’s arsenal, that have less power to heal than to hurt, become dispensable.

Watching this elderly couple in Braum’s brought back one of the few memories I have of my great grandparents. My MaMa (pronounced in a very slow Texas drawl ‘MawMaw’) was deeply in love with PaPa (PawPaw). Before he died, they spent 69 years of their lives together. Married during the Great Depression, these two teenagers built a life together on a farm in east Texas. God didn’t bless them with biological children. (And their generation did not talk of such things as it is indeed a personal matter.) He did, however, send my Granny to them when she was 15 years old. They raised that sassy red-head like she was their own. They were God-fearing Americans, and they were as solid as an oak tree.

Wearing his faded blue overalls holding a glass gauntlet of tea, PaPa would sit in his favorite chair with the doily on the back of it. “Zettie, how long ’til supper?” he’d call to her. She’d come back with some snappy quip. As she would walk by, he’d reach out with a mischievous glint in his eye and pinch her. Despite her age, she’d whip around with a smile and say, “Oh, Russell!” And for a moment, just a moment, I saw it. I saw the two of them, teenagers crazy in love, flirting with one another. The memory is blurry around the edges of my mind, but I can see it. I can see them.

My memories of them are few. Living so far away, I was not around them as often as I wanted. Being so, my visits with them were even more precious. Each time I was there, MaMa would slip my brother and me some money with a wink and say, “Don’t tell PaPa.” And she would cook. Man, oh man, could MaMa cook. (Perhaps another secret to their happy marriage!) She would cook up a storm, and we would eat. I’d help her and Granny shell peas, we’d shoot BB guns, and fish. Most every time we visited, I remember seeing the love between MaMa and PaPa. I cherish those memories, despite my mind’s alterations and embellishments.

Theirs was a relationship that needed no words. Almost 70 years together was enough time that two become one. A look was enough. A wrinkled kiss on a wrinkled hand. A flirtatious “Oh, Russell!” was more than an “I love you.” A genuine respect for one another borne out of what I can only imagine of Life’s hardships was a foundation for happiness. A stubborn belief in God as the Almighty was a safe-hold against Life’s tumults. Theirs was a relationship that needed no words because what they had was so much more powerful than what any word could offer.

Identity Crisis

I am having an identity crisis. Not to say I’ve just had lipo, bought a fire red convertible, colored my hair or married the pool boy… (or even gotten a pool! Sigh.)

I’m just having a slightly less exaggerated identity crisis. One that doesn’t involve scandal or immorality; one that is brought on my some serious prayer and thought. One that requires so much faith that I ought to be more scared than what I am.

For 8 years, I have been an English teacher, and darn proud of that. (No, I am not judging your grammar when you speak to me. Well, okay. A little. I hate when you say “I seen”, but anywhoooo…)  A great part of my 29 years (*cough cough*) have been lived as an English teacher. I’m an English teacher. It’s what I am. It’s what I do.

But now, it’s not. At least, not after tomorrow. When I meet new people, and they ask me “Oh, and what do you do?” Then they cross their arms in front of their chests, subconsciously guarding themselves from whatever missile I fire at them. For 8 years, I’ve confidently responded, “Well, I teach high school English. It’s amazing!” Their arms uncross, and they launch into an uninvited story about their best or worst high school English teacher. Some think I’m insane to love teenagers; others applaud me for finding my calling. We chitchat a bit, then wonder off together, inviting others into our newly found acquaintance.

But now, what do I do? After tomorrow, when I meet a new person, they will still ask, “Oh, and what do you do now?” The arms still cross, but in my mind they stay crossed because as soon as I say, “Well, I stay at home with my kids… well, one of my kids. The other goes to school. But I’m home. And I work. I do. I mean, staying at home is exhausting.” Their eyes glaze over in boredom, or they stare at me with condescention and look over me for the next, way more interesting person.  I know that’s what will happen. If I had 6 kids, I would be freakin’ Wonder Woman for staying at home. But I have 2. Just 2. (And NO- I am NOT trying for a girl, so please don’t ask!) So, I’m just, well. Just.

And I will be okay with that… eventually. But for now, I’m having an identity crisis. I am trying to invent a new, cool slogan that makes “stay-at-home-mom” sound WAY better than ANYTHING else in the world. Why? Because I’ve realized it takes GUTS. It takes faith. Especially when I’ve never ‘not worked’.

But now, I realize more than ever how blessed I am to have the Lord guiding my steps, leading me in this place I’ve never been to do Something Important better than what I’ve been doing in the past. I also realize that I have an amazing husband who supports my taking this tremendous leap of faith, who doesn’t pressure me in finding a new identity. I realize that for just a very short time, I get to be Super Mama, the one that my little ones love and adore before they become stinking pre-pubescent teenage boys who just need me to wash their clothes. (But who, by that time, will have a mom for a teacher again and will have to do their own laundry!)

So, when you see me after tomorrow, and you ask me, “Oh, so what do you do?” and my eye twitches, and I mumble incoherently, please be patient. I am working on my really amazing response that will make you uncross your arms and lean in to hear more about my incredibly exciting life.

 

 

I Hate My Job

I hate my job. Now, don’t misunderstand me. I LOVE teaching. But I hate the nuances of the teaching profession. There has been an extremely ugly shift in what is expected of a teacher, and it is in that shift that I find not only discomfort but also abhorrence. I hate that a bunch of bureaucrats who have not even stepped foot in a classroom in the past decade (or two, perhaps three) can sit upon their cushy leather chairs and dictate to me how I ought to run my classroom. My classroom… the old one with out of date technology… the one filled with students whose problems are certainly more life altering than whether or not they can solve an equation using Pythagorean’s theorem like the kids can in China. I hate that there is more importance placed on whether or not my students can pass more so than whether or not they are ACTUALLY learning. Isn’t education just that? To educate is to guide students in their learning… not assess how well they can achieve the 76 standards I am required to pound into their brains until they master each and every single one of them. It’s exhausting.

Because you know what? I love my students. I love that I get to teach them each day. I love walking in to my room, a room full of sleepy faces, smiling at them and saying, “Good morning!” For many of them, I’m the first adult they see in the morning. I’m the one who asks, “Did you put in your contacts?”, “Did you eat breakfast?”, “Where is your coat?”, “Are you feeling better today?” I feel their foreheads for fever and wipe away their tears. I am, for some, the only adult who loves them enough to put restrictions on their behavior. “No, you cannot do that… because I love you enough to let you know that you shouldn’t.”

The other day, a voice came on the intercom during one of my classes. “Teachers, we need you to lockdown at this time.” For some reason unbeknownst to me, our school was in lockdown. Immediately, I went into drill sergeant mode.

“Kids, I need you to get out of your desks, sit here.. and be quiet!” I thought I would have to knock out one kid who refused to stop talking. I ordered them to get into the right place and stood there like a mother hen. I was prepared to go all Chuck Norris on anyone who tried to come into MY classroom and hurt MY babies. My mind reeled back and forth, preparing myself for what I needed to do.

I questioned whether it was a drill for a moment, but had to assume it wasn’t. In my rational, analytical mind, the fact that some of our students were in the middle of state-mandated testing only further solidified that this could not, in fact, a drill. Nothing interferes with state-mandated testing!

So there I hovered around my 22 teenagers, most of whom are bigger than I am, preparing to protect them from an unseen Boogie Man.

Ten minutes later as the bell rang for them to leave me, the same voice announced, “Students may go to their next hour.”

WHAT?!?! You mean, I don’t have to pull out my ninja moves on someone? (The adrenaline crash I had later that evening kicked my butt too.)

Once I got over that, realization dawned on me.

I really was ready to do battle to protect my ‘babies’. At that moment in time, my mama-fierce-love for them took over all other sensibilities, and I was ready to keep them safe. Because you know what? I LOVE my students. I LOVE teaching.

But I do hate my job.

 

 

Because the standards of my job do not take into account the fact that some of my students have one parent who is working their butt off to provide for their kids, some whose parent is so strung out that he doesn’t know if said parent will be alive tomorrow, that they do homework by streetlight because there’s no electricity, that lunch on Friday afternoon is the last real meal they get until Monday morning, that going ‘home’ could mean going anywhere in the world because there isn’t a house to be lived in, that a slap to the face is the only physical touch she gets from mama……. tell me again… why is scoring proficient on an EOI so important?

Oh, that’s right. That guy with the cushy leather chair says it is, so it must be so.

My mission, not my job, is important. Because my mission is to teach my kids lessons. Lessons, not only about literature and writing, but also about life. Maybe they won’t need my literature lessons in 20 years, but they need it for next year and the next. They need these lessons at least for the next three until the achieve a high school diploma… a diploma that symbolizes that they, despite their sometimes really ugly circumstances, succeeded. They learned. They conquered. And I LOVE that I get to help them along the way to that. I LOVE that in doing so, I get the chance to get to know these wonderful kids who will someday run our country, who will send their children off to school with stories about their teachers, who will hopefully remember that I taught them more than just Romeo and Juliet. And for that reason, despite hating my job, I LOVE that I get to teach.

this little light of mine

The moon is full in the sky, and the stars shine once again down on the earth. The wind stirs the leaves slightly in its breeze, rocking them to sleep. In a sweet little boy’s bedroom, his mama tucks in him, kisses his forehead, and asks, “What song do you want me to sing tonight, Bub?”

“‘This Little Light of Mine’,” he responds with a yawn.

“Alright,” she says. She knew this was the answer before she even asked.

The sweet little boy closes his big blue eyes, resting himself for a big day at school tomorrow, and his mama sings. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…. hide it under a bush, oh no!… won’t let anyone blow it out!… I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine.”

So simple, those words.

 

As a 4-year-old myself, I remember singing those words, using my tiny fingers to show my light, waving it proudly in front of me, so resolute in my declaration. Now, just a few years later, my son asks for that song more often than any other. And I often sing it, words rolling over my lips while my thoughts drift to all the many things I need to be doing instead, hand on the door knob, ready to move on to the next necessary task.

Tonight, though, was different.

Tonight, I thought about those words, thinking about my light. Thinking about how bright it really is, or how dull it becomes. Mostly thinking about what I poor job I’ve done of allowing it to be hidden under a bush or blown out at times. “Hide it under a bush….” Oh no. I have. I am guilty. I have hidden it. Why? Sometimes I’m afraid of the shine. Sometimes I’m afraid that it might scare away those who would rather remain in places where the light isn’t so bright. Sometimes, I just forget that I am called to be the light because the World blocks my view. Sometimes, if I’m honest, being a dim-lighted Christian is just easier. It’s just so much more simple. It requires less energy.

“Won’t let Satan blow it out!” Oh man. Guilty there too. Though he doesn’t stomp in, red eyes glowing and pitchfork in hand like I thought he would when my 4-year-old self sang it. Oh, no. Now I’m onto him. He comes in many forms. An ugly remark from a coworker. An inconvenience. A slight annoyance. A deadline I can’t meet. An expectation too unrealistic. A rude behavior from a person in the checkout line. A disappointment. A stressful situation. He’s there. Lurking in the shadow. Lips shaped in an O, breathing hot air my way, trying ever so slightly to distinguish my light. Sometimes, I protect it, keeping him away from it. Sometimes, his hot breath suffocates me so that the light is too much, and I just let him blow it out. Other times, however, I may as well have snuffed it myself without his help at all.

Sigh. It’s hard being a light sometimes. I’ll admit, I am not the light by which anyone should use to guide themselves through life. However, that light you do see even in its dimmest time is not even my light at all. It’s the light reflected off of me from The Light. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.” (John 8:12)

Whew. That’s a relief. This little light of mine is not mine at all, but His. I am only a mirror of His light, not the light. This little light of mine is so because I reflect what is true and pure, when I’m not allowing it to be extinguished, that is.

So despite my dimmest times or my failures to protect it, at least I get to reflect His light, the greatest light in this sometimes very dark world. And hopefully that reflection shines the way for someone else’s darkness. For even a little light is welcome there.

She Knew

Her heart flutters as doubt fills her brain. Reeling from news and import of her calling, she kneels on the dirt floor. Her hands… they grip her knees, willing herself to understand what she was about to embark upon. A child. Not just a child. THE child. THE Messiah. THE one she had hoped for. And SHE was the chosen one. Tears trickle down her cheeks. Unclenching her knee, she places a hand upon her taught, smooth abdomen. Laughter erupts from her, from deep within her soul. A song emerges from her depths and plays itself on her lips….

Just imagine. Imagine being a 15 year old girl, newly engaged to a man… planning a wedding, a life, and dreaming of what would be. Then it all swirls into oblivion in a matter of moments. An angel arrives at the door, invites himself in, and interjects “Hello, favored one!” He then informs Mary that she is not only favored, but that God has chosen her to have His son, the Messiah, the Savior. Imagine the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that must have danced and warred within her consciousness. Mary was a learned woman. She knew the scriptures. She knew what the Messiah was… a deliverer, a savior, a redeemer. She knew the prophecies of his life. She knew God in a way that caused Him to choose her. She knew.

Mary had attended meetings in the synagogue where the leaders had read the prophecies of the Messiah. She knew he would be spat on and struck, disfigured by extreme suffering, widely rejected by all people, and die despite his unfailing willingness to carry the transgressions of all of humanity. She knew.

She knew all of this, and yet she chose to say yes. “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be as you have said.” Did Jesus suffer and die for our sins? Most assuredly. Did Mary also suffer for our sins? Yes, and just as willingly as Christ did.

The only other power greater than a mother’s love is that of Christ’s love for us. I cannot comprehend the anguish Mary must have felt as she gazed into the brown eyes of her first born son knowing that he must suffer as he would. That as she welcomed him into this world, the joy she felt in holding him was shrouded in grief, knowing her time with him to be limited. Watching him grow strong and tall, lean and muscular, knowing that his life was not to be like that of his brothers. Knowing that he wasn’t hers at all. Despite it all, she knew, and she was willing. Just as her son knew what was to come, and yet He also was willing.

Because she knew something else… that despite the agony she felt in those three days’ time, she would once again wrap her arms around her son. The anguish of waiting, fighting against those inevitable doubts, the endless war between grief and anticipation… she knew it would end. She knew he would come back to her. That she would embrace her child whom she adored on levels no other mother could understand. She knew, just as she had always known. And that is why she was willing.

Moonpie and Jesus

Those blue eyes stared at me with the expectation that the world would be handed to him on a platter. Waiting. The anticipation never once wavered. The belief that he would receive all he wanted was plainly written all over those cherub cheeks and tulip lips. The blonde hair glimmered in the sunshine. Its rays seemed to halo around his head. He blinked once, still waiting. His eyes never left mine. He knew he would receive. He had asked. That is all that was required. Asking meant receiving. Simple.

In that moment with my child, I was reminded yet again of Christ’s love for us. We ask. We wait. We expect. We know that by asking, we will receive. We stare, waiting in anticipation. His word tells us to ask. He challenges us time and again to come unto Him, that as His children we can expect good things. He is our father. He is our refuge, our comfort, our provider….. even more extensive than what our feeble minds can even imagine. He knows our desires before we know them.

Just as I knew those baby blues would find the Moonpie in my hand…knew that I would share it (albeit a tiny bit reluctantly at first) with my child before he had asked me…knew that he would ask me. “Biiiihhhhtttt” his high-pitched request carried its way to me almost as quickly as his stubby legs toddled him across the patio toward the ooey-gooeyness in my hand. I held my Moonpie in my right hand, Diet Coke in the left. He asked just as I got the best part of a Moonpie… the middle. Right where the marshmallow, flaky cake and chocolate collide into happiness. Yet I knew beyond any doubt that I would share it. Not only share it, but relish the moment of being able to share the moment with him. He chomped down on it, flakes of it spilling all over the front of his baby belly. Casually and familiarly, he climbed up beside me on the chair. Legs swinging to and fro, he chewed. Sitting together in companionable silence, we enjoyed my Moonpie together. Happily, I popped the last of it in his mouth for him.

Satisfied, he hopped down off the chair and went back to the heavy business of making messes and terrorizing the dogs. Isn’t that the way of it with God too? We ask. We wait. We receive. Hopefully we sit in silence taking in that moment, realizing that we are satisfied in the comfort of God’s dependability.

Nothing quite like a Moonpie and Jesus

A Courtier in the Valley

The swish of feigned elegance ripples across the crowds. Hushed whispers, malicious giggles, and lackadaisical comments eddy through the air carrying with them the promise of fresh gossip and delectable intimacies. She steers herself and her doubts through the massive crowd, trying to be friendly while remaining inconspicuous. She finds a place near the stage and waits… though waiting for what remains to be seen. Desperately she yearns to fit in, for the acceptance of the court, yet her every premeditated step is dissected and rejected as a misdirection; a rejection snubs her at every corner. An outsider and related to none, she finds herself with a deck stacked against her in a hopeless game. She spies a lawyer or two, a merchant, a banker, and a senator’s relative (though the relation is quite unclear) all in their pomp and glory. Their clothes shine brightly and their wealth ostentatiously glows about their beings. She watches as ladies’ eyes roam about the room, spying for the slightest stirrings, the slightest detail out of place. One leans into another, palm turned inward in a desperate attempt to conceal the mirth behind the words. Another grabs her friend’s elbow, and they sashay themselves outdoors to regale one another with stories regarding those with whom they are most intimate. Her eyes meet those of a friendlier face. The green eyes crinkle as a smile stretches across a lovely countenance. She smiles and awkwardly gapes at her shoes, inspecting them in a way that leaves one to think she had not realized she’d been wearing them at all. A shadow envelopes her, and she raises her eyes to meet the gaze again. The mouth opens as though to speak, but is jerked forcibly sideways. A delicate hand is at the elbow, persistently tugging in the opposite direction. The power and force behind such a tiny hand is off-setting, and she moves away from the couple to avoid any potential contention. Tip-toeing her way as though on eggshells, she lands safely in the presence of other “would-be” courtiers. She mingles among them settling in the familiar currents of conversation.

An intimate hushed inquiry weaves its way into her ear. She turns toward its source and realizing a familiar face, she confides her opinion.

A push, a shove…. she is violently vaulted out of the realm of the court. Such an opinion is never welcome, never permitted. Such is not to be thought, much less spoken aloud… certainly not from an outsider, a no one.